How to Diagnose Compulsive Gambling

Two Methods:Getting a DiagnosisRecognizing the Symptoms of Compulsive Gambling

Gambling can be an addiction just like alcohol or substance abuse. Compulsive gambling can lead to serious problems in your life, such as broken relationships, increased debt, and even theft. Only a mental health professional can diagnose a gambling problem, but you can educate yourself about the diagnostic process and warning signs. If you think you may have a problem, then it is important for you to seek help and begin treatment as soon as possible.

Method 1
Getting a Diagnosis

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    Go see your doctor or therapist. If you think you may have a gambling problem, you should go see your doctor or a mental health professional. If you do not have a therapist, then talking to your primary care physician can help you get some information and a general diagnosis. Then, your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional.[1]
    • You will need to see an addiction specialist or a mental health professional who specializes in gambling addictions.
    • The treatment of your gambling addiction will be managed under the care of a mental health professional, who will use various behavioral therapies and other techniques to help you overcome your addiction.
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    Be honest with your doctor. When you go see your doctor or your mental health professional, you should be honest. You will not be able to receive the help you need if you do not tell your doctor all the information he or she needs. You should tell your doctor about your life, including major changes that may have triggered your gambling.[2]
    • You should also share your feelings with your doctor. Things that may not seem related to you may be connected to your gambling problem.
    • Tell your doctor about any triggers that cause your gambling. A trigger is a sight, sound, smell, feel, or taste stimulus that causes you to want to gamble. Sights and sounds are the most common types of triggers.[3] For example, you may identify your triggers as seeing a commercial or billboard for a casino, seeing people playing cards, watching a lottery drawing, hearing the sound of jingling change, smelling cigarette smoke, etc.
    • Tell your doctor about the medications you take, including vitamins, herbs, or supplements.
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    Anticipate answering questions about your gambling. When you see a doctor or mental health professional, he or she will ask you a lot of questions pertaining to your gambling. You should answer all these questions as honestly as you can. Remember, the goal of seeing a doctor is to cure your gambling addiction, which starts with admitting your problem and being honest.[4]
    • Your doctor may ask when you first started gambling, how many times a week you gamble, and if you have tried to quit gambling before. Your doctor may also ask about how much money you usually bet and if you have ever bet material things instead of money.
    • Your doctor may ask about your relationships with your family and friends.
    • Your doctor will probably also ask you if you are serious about treating your gambling problem.
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    Take the DSM-5 diagnostic test. Only a mental health professional can diagnose you with a gambling disorder, so it is important for you to seek help. A mental health professional may diagnose you with a gambling disorder after giving you a diagnostic test. If you meet the criteria on the DSM-5 test, you will be diagnosed with a gambling disorder. You must have four or more of the listed criteria in a 12-month period to be diagnosed. The criteria includes:[5]
    • The need to gamble more with more money for more excitement
    • Inability to stop or limit gambling due to feelings of frustration or irritability, or inability to stop or limit gambling when trying
    • Obsessive thoughts of gambling or ways to get money
    • Tries to win back money after losing large sums
    • Lies to family and friends, or has damaged relationships, careers, or education due to gambling
    • Has to borrow or steal money
    • Behavior is not due to bipolar or manic episodes
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    Consider the severity of your gambling disorder. After you have honestly answered the DSM-5 criteria test, you will be given a score. Your score determines the severity of your gambling problem. The severity of your gambling can help your mental health professional and you figure out the appropriate treatment plan.[6]
    • You have a mild gambling disorder if you meet four to five of the criteria.
    • You have a moderate gambling disorder if you meet six to seven criteria.
    • You have a severe gambling disorder if you meet eight to nine criteria.
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    Find out what type of gambling disorder you have. The criteria and some additional information provided by you can help your mental health professional decide more specifically what kind of disorder you have. For example, you may have episodic or persistent gambling. If you have episodic gambling disorder, you meet the criteria on the DSM-5, but there are large stretches of time where you don’t gamble. With persistent gambling disorder, you meet the criteria for a sustained, continuous amount of time.[7]
    • Your doctor may also determine if you are in remission. Early remission means you haven’t met any criteria for three months, but you have in the last year. Sustained remission means that no criteria has been met in over a year.
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    Undergo treatment. After you have been diagnosed with your specific gambling problem, you and your mental health professional can figure out a proper treatment plan for you. Since gambling is an addiction, it is not easy to overcome and takes a lot of hard work and dedication on your part. Though the chance for relapse is possible, if you stick with your treatment plan, you can overcome your addiction and regain your life. Common treatment options for gambling disorders include:[8]
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This is where your doctor helps you change negative behavior patterns that lead to your gambling. You will work on identifying triggers. You will also learn healthier ways to deal with stress.
    • Support groups. Gamblers Anonymous is a popular program that can be a helpful treatment for people with a gambling addiction.

Method 2
Recognizing the Symptoms of Compulsive Gambling

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    Consider whether you may have an obsession with gambling. One of the major symptoms of compulsive gambling is an obsession and preoccupation with gambling. You may think about gambling all the time and want to be gambling when you are not. You may get cranky when you can’t gamble, or schedule your life around your gambling.[9]
    • You may spend your time not gambling thinking about your past gambling experiences.
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    Reflect on how you use gambling. Many people with a compulsive gambling disorder use gambling to escape from everyday life and troubles. Perhaps you use gambling to help you with your feelings of guilt or helplessness, or use gambling to make you feel better because you are depressed.[10]
    • When you feel depressed or stressed, you feel the need to gamble more than at other times. You distract yourself from your real life with gambling and finding money to gamble.
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    Examine how you feel about gambling. People with a gambling problem become addicted to the thrill of betting. They feel excitement from placing bets and taking risks, especially when they place big bets. Due to the nature of the addiction, the risks generally continually get bigger and bigger, which can lead to debt and other serious problems.[11]
    • Because you may need a bigger bet to get the same thrill, you may start betting things you don’t have, like large sums of money, or placing bets with things you can’t lose, like cars, personal items, or homes.
    • You may find yourself having to borrow money or steal so you can keep gambling and making bigger bets.
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    Ask yourself if you can quit gambling. Compulsive gamblers are different than social gamblers because they do not set a limit for themselves. If a compulsive gambler loses all of his or her money, he or she won’t just get up and walk away. A compulsive gambler will keep playing so he or she can recover the money lost. This leads to more losses.[12]
    • Compulsive gamblers spend time they should be at work or with family and friends to gamble. They are unable to control the impulse to gamble.
    • You may have tried to stop gambling in the past but have been unable to stop.
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    Think about your relationships. Another way to determine if you are a compulsive gambler is to look at your relationships. This includes your family or your work relationships. Compulsive gambling can lead to strains in your relationships because you are lying and hiding your gambling from your family. You may face problems at work because you are missing work or your work is not up to par because you are distracted.[13]
    • You may have put strain on relationships because you have asked to borrow money or failed to pay back loans you’ve received from friends used to pay your gambling debts. You may have upset friends by asking for money multiple times.
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    Look at your risk factors. Most people will be able to gamble socially throughout their lives without any problems. However, anyone can develop a gambling problem. There are some characteristics that increase your risk for a gambling addiction. These include:[14]
    • Other mental disorders. For example, compulsive gamblers are often alcoholics or have another substance abuse problem. Mental disorders such as ADHD, major depression, or bipolar may also contribute to it.
    • Age and sex. Being a compulsive gambler is more common in younger or middle-aged men. However, women can also develop a gambling addiction, especially if they are bipolar or have anxiety or depression disorders.
    • Family history of gambling.
    • Being competitive, restless, a workaholic, or easily bored.

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Categories: Addictions